“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.” Keshavan Nair
I really like this thought that courage is the foundation of integrity. When life goes different than we plan, we often come up against the opportunity to let the changes sweep us aside from our obligations. It takes courage to stand by our word when it is uncomfortable and hard.
I remember personally a situation in our own family. Years ago, when my mom was dying she wanted to stay at home and not go to the hospital. The doctors thought that she had just a couple of weeks left, so having already used up all of my vacation with her, I took a leave of absence from work to help take care of her. The projected two weeks turned into three months.
This was a large enough gap in our income that it tumbled us into bankruptcy. We had the choice to repay our creditors (Chapter 13) who had lent us money in good faith or to walk away from the debts with a Chapter 7. I had the perfect excuse of financial hardship. Most people I knew at that time encouraged us to do just that.
In order to repay everyone in three years it was a significant payment and that meant we would have to live very frugally, but that is the choice that we made. It would have been easier financially to walk away and our credit history would have recovered faster if we had walked away. This has left us with the feeling that we were actually being punished for doing the right thing.
However looking in my heart, I knew that I had to stay in integrity. There were times in those three years when I wished I had taken the easier road, as the kids were mostly teenagers and Alvin ended up having to take a second job just so we could make it.
When I look at it from hindsight I can see how it does take courage to be, and stay in integrity. To honor your word no matter the cost or circumstances takes great moral courage. It teaches you to take a second look before making agreements, because you realize that while at the moment the agreement is easy to make, you don’t know what will change in your future that could put that agreement at risk.
When you commit to have your work done at a certain time; to run an errand; to pick someone up; a multitude of things that we make a commitment or agreement to do. It is easy to say this is such a small thing, and I felt obligated to say yes, and I didn’t really want to do it, and now I really don’t want to do it. Yet it is still a commitment that will affect your integrity.
I am sure that you have heard “as you do one thing is how you do everything”. It is a true parable. When we live a life out of integrity, it is because we started breaking commitments for small things, with whatever handy excuse we had. Once you start down that path, it is all too easy to keep going downhill, and you start breaking larger commitments. There comes a time when people no longer trust you at your word. There comes a time when you don’t even trust yourself at your word.
Your inner sense of wellbeing is impacted, because your own mind doesn’t believe you anymore when you say you are going to do something. It looks at your history and says, Yeah, well as soon as you don’t feel like it, you will walk away from this commitment too.
This is one of the most important things that we can teach our children, by how we live our own lives. When you make a commitment, large or small – the importance of keeping that commitment is critical to the kind of person you are growing up to be. Be a person of personal and moral integrity and you will go far in life.